“I want to stop at the prison. It will just be five minutes. Is that okay?” Jeffrey turned around to survey the blank, early morning stares from his fellow passengers. No one voiced opposition; no one asked questions. It was early for debate. We were nine in total that morning: Jeffrey and his cousin, Marga, a group of four friends, a couple in their thirties, and myself in the van together. We came from various countries spread across at least three continents. Only maybe half of the group spoke any Spanish. We all slept at the same hostel and had all met at 7am for the first colectivo leaving the Mexican city of Valladolid for the wondrous, famous, high-traffic ruins at Chichén Itzá. (We had each been advised that if we didn’t make the first bus, the amount of people we would see at the ruins would seriously ruin the visit.)
The stop at the prison was a quick detour where we could shop for hammocks; the best made hammocks in the Yucatán, Jeffrey told us. (A quick Google search affirms that others agree that these hammocks are in fact the best… though of course there is debate.) Made by the inmates at the prison, these heavy-duty nylon hammocks have earned something of a reputation among hammock-seekers across the globe. Plus, they come in such a wide array of colors that Crayola would be inspired by the variety.
Those of us interested in buying a hammock or tired of sitting in the van were walking through the open air rows of hanging, woven, nylon colors while a guard watched close-by. We learned that the hammocks come in at least two sizes; we’ll say small and large. The small-sized hammocks looked easily big enough for two people. The large-sized hammocks looked big enough for my family to fit inside (see above photo.)
After a few moments of browsing it was clear that most of us would be leaving empty-handed. For some among us, the idea of carrying such a large item for several weeks or months, stuffed inside an already full backpack, was enough to squash the idea. For others nearing the end of a journey, pockets nearly empty, finances were the deciding factor… because the best hammocks in the Yucatán are an investment.
An investment in years of comfort and relaxation, no doubt; but still an investment. The asking price for a small hammock is around 600 pesos. The large hammocks are priced at 1000 pesos. In U.S. Dollars, the prison hammocks sell for roughly $45-$75, before any bargaining. And if I were to survey all the hammocks sold in the Yucatán, I would guess that I would find them sold much cheaper and much, much more expensive. As a comparison, the online company, Mérida Hammocks, sells their hammocks for between $22-$50 USD. Seaside Hammocks, also online, sells their hammocks for $34 to over $300 USD! I can’t comment on the quality of hammock from either company.
I can say, however, that I asked Jeffrey about his purchase from the prison. One year later, and he is still happy.
Helpful Hammock Information:
If you’re serious about owning a high-quality hammock, the prison near Valladolid is worth a visit. And if you want to do some reading before you make a purchase, the following websites will answer most questions you would have about Yucatán hammocks.
Merida Hammocks offers a FAQ on their website. This includes information on cotton vs. nylon, how to choose hammock sizes, and how to hang and care for your hammock.
Seaside Hammocks also has a FAQ page, with even more information. (These guys are serious about hammocks.) They also offer advice on How to Choose your Hammock and descriptions of the various hammock types: Mayan (the variety in the Yucatán), Nicaraguan, Brazilian, and American style.
(Spoiler alert: The American-style hammocks are the least comfortable of all.)